Posts Tagged ‘Growth’

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Still a man’s world!

September 4, 2013

Guest Post by Tahmina Shafique, WB-SAES Youth Delegate from Bangladesh  at http://southasiaeconomicsummit.wordpress.com/

A session to address gender disparities in the economic context held this afternoon, had approximately 70% women participation and very few men! Well, there we go with disparity!

One does not need to go into details of the massive levels of gender disparity that exists in South Asia. It is prominent in every sphere of our lives. Despite representing about 50% of the total population in each country in the region, and having achieved much progress, we have not been able to break that boundary. Participation of women in all levels have been significantly slow and a battle that we continue to fight.

So, as we continue to speak about growth, inclusive growth, we must bring about the issue of gender disparities. One may argue that this is of course a given. But, in the context of South Asia, given the backdrop of a traditional social structure that deems women secondary, such an economic summit must bring the issue of gender disparity on the forefront. How does South Asia as a region achieve that higher growth without gender parity?

This afternoon’s parallel session on “Mind the Gap” questioned exactly this. Numerous studies revealed during this session, stated that massive levels of inequality exist and need urgent attention. Inequality exists in the household decision making process, labour force participation, education, and more. Participation in parliaments and politics remains to be significantly low. Turns out gender inequality index remains to be low even in a country such as Sri Lanka, which battled to be out there in terms of gender parity from the 70s. Despite the improvements in education levels, it seems that the demand for jobs remains to be low to cater to the growing number of woman. The types of jobs and legislation are still written from a man’s perspectives.

If we take the case of Bangladesh, private sector is a thriving sector. It has been, by and large the driver and engine for economic growth. If we look at the thriving sector RMG, approximately 80% of the workers are women. But, wait a minute, all of these women are employed at the lowest levels. Move to the supervisory or managerial roles, their participation is insignificant.

Our development agenda and goals do focus on gender parity and gender mainstreaming. But one thing that we have been unable to move away from this obsession with representing women as the recipient of growth, a “trickle down” effect of growth, or being the poor, minority segment.

The truth is, we are not minority in any possible shape or form. We represent 50% of the population. So why are we not moving into mainstreaming women in the economy to achieve growth, instead of making them a side-kick or the victim who has benefited from growth?

If we are to continue this discourse on gender equality, than we must begin this in practices. Civil society needs to play an active role in ensuring that each levels of distribution system looks at inclusion and means of inclusion of women.

Economic concepts cannot be looked at in an isolated manner. It needs to linked with social aspects.

Mind the Gap

If the societal values need to be looked at, it needs to start from home. It needs to start from education. It is within the children that we need to instill the values that are not characterized by patriarchy. It is here that the value systems develop and it is here how the view of a woman and her worth is shaped within our homes and societies.

 

This gender parity battle has been fought for way too long. And this battle for prosperous economic growth cannot be won in a man’s world. Turn it around, and it all might just start shifting.

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And, What about Human Capital

September 4, 2013

Guest Post by Tahmina Shafique, WB-SAES  Youth Delegate from Bangladesh  http://southasiaeconomicsummit.wordpress.com/page/2/

South Asia is the story of a massive workforce, rising youth population- ours is the story of people, their hard work, their contributions. South Asia, in economic terms, is the story of human capital. It is the integral part of our economy. Yet, harnessing human capital, and investing on human capital, remains to be at the far end of the critical agendas of each economy. In a way, we have lost that L (Labour) in our production functions, as Shekhar Shah, the chair of this afternoon’s session, rightly pointed out. The L within our production function has just become a random, sweeping arena.

How long will these economies really be able to sustain with low levels of investment, low quality public education, low levels of skills development and more?

Employment, jobs seems to be an “easy” issue in South Asia, but the time has come to look at this issue with eyes wide open. With increased number of youth population in South Asia, it is important to look at the issue of employment. Are there enough jobs for the large and growing youth population? Even if jobs are created through informal sector, can we produce good quality and productive workforce?
Now there are multiple areas to think about- we have an informal sector and formal sector, the education system, skills training and finally the cross cutting arena: politicization.

The informal sector dilemma: Starting with the informal sector, million of workers in Asia, account for almost two third of the total workforce who are engaged to informal work. The growing size and scale of the informal economy shows that it has become the normal and predominant economic activity for workers in Asia. When investments are being made, how does one attempt to increase the productivity levels of these informal markets which are characterized by low levels of productivity? A lot of the learnings do happen through spillovers, in that case, does greater integration help?

The story of formal sector: Meanwhile in the formal sector, informalization is institutionalized through deregulation of labour law promoting flexibilization of the labour market. As a result, the power of trade unions is dismantled. The absence of the right to collective bargaining and freedom of association then exacerbates the working condition of informal workers. Isn’t it time to address these collectively? Does the private sector have a responsible role to play here?

Education systems: The education sector in South Asian countries remains to be weak. The public education does not have enough expenditure allotted to this sector, which results in poor quality education. To add to that, politicization within the education sector remains to be rampant where for example, vice chancellors are appointed in accordance to political influence rather than the experience and required qualifications. In the private sector, while the quality of education starts off well, they are expensive which means access is a major issue. In addition to this, private sector education institutes grow at a fast rate, as in case of Bangladesh. In this case, the overall quality drops significantly.
Skills development: While private and public institutions are in place, they remain to be characterized by poor quality and majority are inadequate to respond to the growing and changing demand and market patterns and employment needs.

Having explored all of the above, which were discussed this afternoon in the plenary session, it is important for all stakeholders to think about that diminishing and decaying L. Are we doing enough? What role does the civil society have to play here? There is clearly an urgent need for higher expenditure by each of the governments? Can the civil society advocate for this? Who will work towards ensuring that bomb that is ticking doesn’t explode?